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Manitoba Senior Men Need a Change in Qualifying Schedule

Sunday Apr 08 2007

Sunday, 08 April 2007 ? By Resby Coutts

As I tracked the results of the Canadian Senior Championships, I thought about a suggestion I heard frequently on Wednesday mornings this season at the Heather Curling Club.

The competitive season for Manitoba Senior Men is too short. When you look at the schedule for 2006-2007, the two berth bonspiels were done in early December and the zones were done at mid-December. With the Guild Insurance Brokers Spiel in Brandon and the Gunnlaugson Spiel at Asham Arena at the front end of the season, Manitoba’s senior men effectively had a two month competitive season. It needs to be longer to encourage the interest of the very large group of competitive senior men.

A lot of the guys in that very large (nearly 100 teams) Heather Senior Men’s league would like to see at least one qualifying opportunity later in the season. The Juniors have the Christmas Bonspiel, the Women have the MCA Women’s Spiel, the Men have the MCA Men’s Spiel as ‘last-chance’ opportunities, if they don’t qualify through zones.

Granted, a few teams who want to focus on qualifying for the Safeway championship would find this schedule inconvenient – but I believe there are many more Senior Men competitors who would welcome a last-chance bonspiel.

I recall the logic. A few years back there was a hue and cry from a loud but, I recall, small group of guys who wanted to go south for the winter and wanted to get the qualifying for seniors out of the way so they would know whether or not they should plan to come home early. I argued at the time, and still believe, that it makes little sense to organize the schedule for the convenience of the people who want to find a way to avoid the curling club most of the winter.

I suggest that the schedule should be built to serve the interests of those who do want to spend their time in the curling club. A last chance bonspiel could be played as late in the season as mid-February.

I know there will be a lot of discussion about the challenges of changing the schedule – which bonspiel would be moved – what club would host it – when would it be played.

The fact that there are challenges doesn’t mean there are no answers – just judgments that have to be made. I believe the value of a re-establishing a last-chance bonspiel for Senior Men would be a positive offset against other considerations.

Here’s just one scheduling suggestion:

** Play Mixed Zones at the same time as the National Scotties TOH – granted this would affect 4 women, potentially 2 mixed teams, but very few of the top competitive women compete in mixed.

** Schedule the Mixed berth bonspiel as a ‘last-chance’ for Mixed teams, just ahead of the Mixed Provincials

** Schedule the Strathcona Senior Men’s Berth Bonspiel when we have recently held the Mixed Berth Spiel in mid-February – I’m betting I could name at least 20 rural clubs that would welcome a 48 or 64 team senior men’s bonspiel at this time of year.

If it were up to me, I’d put this one on the table for discussion for implementation two seasons from now. Hosting the Brier next year will cause enough stress to the schedule in Manitoba and I don’t have any trouble with the thought of taking two years to organize the schedule properly.

Let me know what you think. If more than me think the idea has merit, maybe the MCA could be convinced to put the discussion on the agenda for the Annual Meeting this spring – that’s the venue for discussion of ideas that impact the future of curling in Manitoba.

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